TWO months after telling the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that he needed a long break to think about his future, possibly beyond the Anglican Church, retiring Newcastle Anglican Bishop Greg Thompson will be farewelled at a service on Sunday night.
The bishop who exposed the culture that supported crimes against children for decades – and who was made to feel “not welcome in his own cathedral” for doing so – will be thanked at a service in Newcastle’s Christ Church Cathedral.
“In his short time as our bishop he has been the catalyst for deep cultural change around the protection of children and the support of victims of abuse. He called us to face our past and in doing so shape a healthy future. This will be his enduring legacy,” Bishop Peter Stuart said in a statement this week on behalf of the diocese.
Bishop Thompson became the head of the Anglican church in the Hunter in February 2014. In a later interview with the Newcastle Herald he said returning to the region where he was born and raised forced him to confront abuse in his past.
In a statement to the royal commission Bishop Thompson said he was sexually abused as a child by boarders who stayed at his family home, and later by Anglican clerics Canon Eric Barker and Bishop Ian Shevill.
In his first few months as Newcastle Bishop he was confronted by the extent of abuse by Anglican clerics and lay people in the Hunter, and the networks that supported them including senior clerics, lawyers and diocese officials.
In June 2015, to mark his 500th day as head of the church in the Hunter, he issued an extraordinary apology to victims of child sexual abuse and the community, and later told clergy “We can’t have mates looking after mates any more”.
He revealed that up to 30 perpetrators over four decades molested children – including the children of priests – within the diocese.
His statements were later borne out during a sensational royal commission public hearing in Newcastle. The commission’s final Newcastle Anglican report is expected in the next week.